All over Italy on January 27th, a myriad of events in the schools, theaters, and museums commemorate International Holocaust Remembrance Day, designated by a United Nations General Assembly resolution in November, 2005.
Assisi’s Giorno della Memoria events started on the 25th and continue into February, 2020:
On the afternoon of January 25th, a good group was gathered near the Basilica di Santa Chiara where there was once a printer’s workshop.
In that tipografia, Luigi and Trento Brizi – father and son – had printed the false identity documents for the Jewish refugees (more than three hundred) hidden here in Assisi.
The printing press stood there until quite recently – surrounded by the Deruta ceramics and Assisi souvenirs sold there by Trento’s nephew and his wife. Probably visiting tourists had no idea what a printing press was doing in the midst of colorful maiolica bowls and pitchers, statues of St. Francis and other Assisi memorabilia. But most of us “locals” knew.
The owners have retired; their shop is a bar now and the printing press has merited a place of honor in Assisi’s Museo della Memoria.
On the 25th, a beige cloth was draped over the plaque dedicated to the Brizis above the door. There would be a symbolic unveiling…..
……but first, the bishop of Assisi, the mayor and relatives of the Brizis recounted the printers’ story, lauded their courage:
…and then the veil was slipped off, the plaque again announcing “On these premises (1943-1944) Luigi and Trento Brizi, father and son, printed for the Jews given refuge in Assisi the documents which hid their true identity”:
…and then we headed under the nearby 13th-century arch towards the (former) Hotel Sole:
What memories for me of my years with the Elderhostel (now Road Scholar) programs based here. A key speaker for our Elderhostelers was Graziella Viterbi, Jewish refugee hidden in Assisi in World War II with her family. Although she was living in Rome then (Graziella died in March, 2019 at the age of ninety-two), she had often returned to her beloved Assisi and when she did, I’d invite her to our Hotel Sole classroom in to speak to our groups.
Ironically, her family had stayed right here at the Hotel Sole just after their arrival in Assisi, hosted by the Modestini family. Her sister Miriam has written a book about their year in Assisi and passages from the book were read to us, right outside of the hotel.
…..and then we went into the hotel, passing the dining room where I’d shared so many dinners with our Elderhostelers, often following one of Graziella Viterbi’s talks…
That dining room was to the right of the entrance and in her book, Miriam Viterbi described her family’s table in a dining room to the left of the entrance: the very place where we all shared refreshments as conclusion to our afternoon of memories.
A young woman in red also sold the books by Miriam Viterbi and on the Museo della Memoria.
No need to purchase: I have them.
As I headed home, passing the Brizi tipografia right across the piazza from the Basilica di Santa Chiara, I thought about the two printers gazing on the same serene site as they closed up their print shop each night.
Read about Assisi’s Museo della Memoria – and about Graziella Viterbi
Read an interview with Graziella Viterbi
Click here for more on the Jewish refugees hidden in Assisi – and those who helped them
Read about the Assisi Poor Clares’ ties to the Jewish refugees
Read about the assistance of the San Francisco area Jewish community to Assisi after the 1997 earthquake: recipricocity